Wednesday, 30 August 2023

Indian Politicians in India and Canada: A study in contrast! Chaman Lal*


Indian politicians in Canada and India: A study in contrast | Chandigarh News - The Indian Express


It was in March 2020 that the Indo-Canadian Workers Association in Brampton sent me an invitation to deliver a few lectures on Shaheed Bhagat Singh in some cities of Canada. However, as the pandemic Covid-19 spread world over in mid-March, the programs were cancelled at the last moment, as were in India too! The invitation materialised three years later in March 2023.! While as part of the series, the lectures were held in Vancouver also. During my stay in the Vancouver area, it was in April first week, that along with a few friends of Punjabi origin, I wished to and visit Victoria, the capital of British Columbia province of Canada, which is popularly called Beautiful British Columbia (BBC)! We were invited to visit the Assembly Hall of the province by an MLA of Filipino origin, Mable Elmore, who was Vice President of the Drivers Union at one time and a four-time MLA. During my last visit in year 2011, an MLA of Punjabi origin Harry Bains had invited a few friends and we were entertained there in the Assembly Hall by Raj Chauhan, Jagrup Brar and Harry Bains, who took us around the assembly hall. At that time also, I had wished that if there could be some reference made to Shaheed Bhagat Singh in Assembly proceedings as we went around. This time to my pleasant surprise, it did happen, that too, due to a Filipino-origin MLA! To fulfil my wish, Kirpal Bains, a Punjabi-origin friend, who remained President of a union, of which Mable Elmore was Vice President, arranged an invitation from his comrade and MLA Mable Elmore to visit the assembly with friends. So, five of us Kirpal Bains, Dr. Sadhu Singh, Iqbal Purewal, Santokh Singh and me, took a ferry from Vancouver and reached Victoria, where the British Columbia Assembly is located. Both Kirpal Bains and Dr Sadhu Singh had their illustrious academic career in Punjab earlier. We were received at the gate of the Assembly by MLA Mable Elmore herself, who came out from the assembly's ongoing proceedings. While she took us around the assembly hall complex, we met some ministers of British Columbia holding their own files without any staff to carry around. One of the ministers we met, was Niki Sharma, the law minister. I was carrying a few books on Shaheed Bhagat Singh in Hindi and was told that Niki Sharma might know Hindi, as she is from the Jalandhar area background, but she did not know Hindi. We were pleasantly surprised to see Raj Chauhan as Speaker of the British Columbia assembly, in 2011, he was a minister. He received us warmly in the speaker’s chamber. As I presented one of my books on Bhagat Singh to him, he invited us to watch the proceedings of the Assembly in the afternoon session, which he was to chair. We were entertained on a nutritious lunch with all kinds of food, in the Assembly Canteen where we met Jagrup Brar, who was minister this time and also joined briefly by MLA Jinny Sims, who was, an MP of federal parliament in 2011. Jinny's name is Joginder from the Doaba area and her father was a Communist activist in Punjab. While talking over lunch, she shared our concern about what was being done by Khalistani elements in Canada and Amritpal and others in the UK and other countries.

In the afternoon session of the Assembly, while we were seated in the visitor’s gallery, we were introduced to the Assembly members as special visitors. While I was introduced to the Assembly by ex-Minister Jinny Sims as a researcher on Bhagat Singh, by adding that Shaheed Bhagat Singh was India’s greatest hero of the freedom struggle. Mable Elmore introduced the other four friends Kirpal Bains, Sadhu Singh, Iqbal Purewal and Santokh Singh, mentioning Kirpal Bains as her mentor in the trade union! The proceedings were recorded and I was happy that at least it was possible this time to get Shaheed Bhagat Singh's name mentioned in Assembly records as an icon of the Indian freedom struggle. While going through the assembly complex, I clicked the photograph of Ujjal Dosanjh, who had remained Premier of British Columbia province once, later a federal minister too. (Ujjal Dosanjh too joined in a dinner held during my stay in Surrey with lively chat on drinks and food! He was in Chandigarh recently to release one of his autobiographical books, as he left politics for writing. He is the grandson of a Ghadrite revolutionary from the Hoshiarpur district). I presented a Brochure of Bhagat Singh Archives and Resource Centre New Delhi to be displayed in Assembly library. While Mable Elmore came out with us to the Assembly gate to say goodbye! I was told that on the next day of the Assembly session, Mable again made mention of Shaheed Bhagat Singh in the context of a race being organised in martyr’s name in Vancouver!

I was wondering how a system in different countries makes people of different backgrounds conduct themselves in accordance with the country they adopt to live in. All MLAs and ministers of Punjabi /Indian origin keep coming over to India and see how their counterparts in the Indian parliamentary system behave like feudal lords. While MLAs/ministers of Indian origin do all their work themselves, buying tea or coffee too by standing in queue, the Indian feudal-minded parliamentarians cannot be even approached by common or even somewhat privileged Indians! Aam Aadmis (Common People in literal translation), become so Khas (Special), that even their close friends earlier are not responded to in any manner. I know one or two Cabinet ministers and senior functionaries of Punjab, who once took me to various monumental places relating to the Ghadar party like Stockton, Sacramento and San Francisco in the USA, will not even respond to my phone/Whatsapp calls/msgs or emails, so is in Delhi Aam turns Khas after getting power!

     Ironically Governments in the centre and states in the Indian Parliamentary system, find it difficult to appreciate the truly Multi-Cultural Canadian Parliamentary system, though still a dominion of the erstwhile British empire, where ministers including Prime Minister and Chief Ministers, MPs and MLAs live like other citizens of the country, one could find them in markets, carrying their own grocery, driving their own vehicles, standing in ques with all other citizens, allowing peoples peaceful protests, accepting their genuine demands without taking the sacrifices of people, like 700 farmers lives during recent farmers struggle! Indian Govt. bullies the Canadian government like international feudal lords. Canada itself has lost more than 300 of its citizen's lives, due to Khalistani elements causing an air crash few years ago, and a grand monument stands in the Vancouver area, with all the names of aeroplane crash victims caused by Khalistanis, so is a monument built at Vancouver waterfront in memory of 376 Kamagatamaru ship passengers including Hindu-Sikh-Muslims all, who were not allowed to land and reverted back to India after two months in 1914! Canadian Govt. has recorded an apology for that in its Parliament!

  I also wonder that after becoming citizens of Canada/other countries, why people from Indian background keep harping more on Indian situation than on the situation of their citizenship adopted countries! One can understand showing concern about the Indian situation from a humanitarian angle, but that should be for any country’s situation! Irony is the Indian Govt, while being critical of Canadian/other Governments. for not checking protests against the Indian govt. by Indian background people for its oppression inside India, they use similar Indian background people for promoting a present brand of Indian Govt. Thus, Indian Prime Minister Modi has been built as a ‘hero’ by the same type of Indian background people in the USA, UK and Australia, but this govt. gets stung when the same type of Indian background people criticise or protest against Modi Govt.! While no action was taken at the replay and eulogising Nathu Ram Godse for shooting Mahatma Gandhi, by a Hindu fundamentalist woman in Aligarh, action is demanded against some Sikhs in Canada replaying and eulogising Sikh bodyguards of Indira Gandhi shooting her! Both these actions in public are reprehensible, yet demanding action against Canadian Sikhs and not taking any action against Nathu Ram Godse's followers at home!  This is the hypocrisy of first order!

*Chaman Lal is a retired Professor from JNU and Honorary Advisor Bhagat Singh Archives and Resource Centre, Delhi , has been in Canada recently for a lecture series on Shaheed Bhagat Singh. Whatsapp 9868774820, email

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